DUCT CLEAN­ING

... to im­prove your home’s air qual­ity

Montreal Gazette - - NEW HOMES & CONDOS - MEGAN MARTIN

When it comes to spring clean­ing and home main­te­nance, things like win­dow clean­ing, land­scap­ing, roof re­pair and paint­ing gen­er­ally come to mind. But we of­ten over­look duct clean­ing, even though it has a huge im­pact on the air qual­ity in a home.

If you’re won­der­ing what duct clean­ing en­tails, it may be be­cause it’s not some­thing done on an an­nual ba­sis so there’s a chance you’ve yet to en­counter the process. Res­i­den­tial duct clean­ing is the ex­trac­tion of de­bris, dirt and dust from your home’s ven­ti­la­tion air ducts.

“The main con­cept is ba­si­cally cre­at­ing a neg­a­tive pres­sure to your main sup­ply and re­turn plenum near the fur­nace, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously us­ing pos­i­tive pres­sure to ag­i­tate and send the dust and de­bris from all sup­ply and re­turn branches to­wards the vac­uum,” said Darin Doucet, founder and CEO of Duct Mas­ters Inc. “Forc­ing air is not suf­fi­cient; most pro­fes­sional com­pa­nies will ag­i­tate prop­erly with adapters that spin and turn in­side both the sup­ply and re­turn branches and not just the main plenum. Once they clean all sup­ply and re­turn branches, they com­plete the clean­ing with the main plenum.”

Once ev­ery­thing has been cleaned, the tech­ni­cian should ver­ify the work with a vis­ual in­spec­tion us­ing a cam­era or a flash­light and mir­ror, he added.

Why does duct clean­ing mat­ter? Be­cause it has a di­rect im­pact on your home’s air qual­ity, among other rea­sons.

“The air pass­ing through the ducts is the same air your fam­ily breathes each day and, left unchecked, ducts can har­bour al­ler­gens like pollen and pet dan­der, which can re-en­ter your liv­ing space through the sup­ply reg­is­ters,” Doucet said.

“Though these par­ti­cles aren’t nec­es­sar­ily a health haz­ard, they can pose prob­lems for peo­ple who have asthma, al­ler­gies, or other res­pi­ra­tory is­sues.”

Hav­ing your air ducts cleaned will help im­prove air qual­ity and keep your air free of air­borne par­ti­cles. More­over, in ad­di­tion to con­tribut­ing to optimal air con­di­tions, hav­ing clean ducts also af­fects the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of your home.

“Dust and de­bris re­stricts the flow of air to and from the com­po­nents of your HVAC sys­tem, so when the ducts are clogged your fur­nace or air con­di­tioner has to con­sume more en­ergy to do its job,” Doucet said. “Keep­ing ducts clear will en­sure your units can per­form at peak ef­fi­ciency.”

Clean ducts also help pro­tect heat­ing and cool­ing equip­ment.

“A dirty ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem can lead to clogged air-con­di­tioner coils, con­tam­i­nated blower wheels, and other is­sues that re­sult in costly re­pairs,” he said.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, it’s ideal to have your home’s ducts cleaned ev­ery two or three years, with a rec­om­mended max­i­mum of seven years be­tween clean­ings, ex­perts say. But there are many rea­sons to clean them more of­ten if the bud­get al­lows.

“If you just com­pleted a ren­o­va­tion project or built a brand-new home con­struc­tion, the air ducts should be cleaned im­me­di­ately,” Doucet said. “The other rea­sons to have them cleaned more of­ten in­clude pets in the home, chil­dren with res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses, ro­dent in­fes­ta­tion, or mould found in­side the home.”

One of the main warn­ing signs that it may be time to have your home’s ducts cleaned is con­stant dusti­ness, in­clud­ing when dust re­turns to fur­ni­ture and sur­faces al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter be­ing cleaned off.

“Home­own­ers can also look them­selves very eas­ily in­side the re­turn vent, which is a rec­tan­gle grill on the wall. Do­ing this takes just a few min­utes and will give you a good idea if it’s time to clean the air ducts.”

An­other rea­son to have your ducts cleaned is if you’ve just pur­chased a home, or if you’re look­ing to sell your prop­erty.

“The gen­eral pub­lic is in­creas­ingly aware of duct clean­ing ser­vices be­cause there’s a greater aware­ness of the im­por­tance of hav­ing ac­cept­able air qual­ity in their homes,” said Daniela Lamorte, res­i­den­tial real es­tate bro­ker with M Im­mo­bilier. “I work with buy­ers who have the ducts cleaned in their new prop­er­ties, and ten­ants, in some cases, who re­quest duct clean­ing prior to oc­cu­pancy.”

As a seller, it would be a sen­si­ble idea to have the ducts cleaned prior to sell­ing, she added.

“Par­tic­u­larly in cases where mould was found in the home, if there is car­pet­ing or pets in the home, or if the home was ren­o­vated,” Lamorte said. “It can help the sell­ing process by elim­i­nat­ing stub­born odours that may be caused by the buildup of de­bris and al­ler­gens in the duct­work.”

If a seller does go the route of hav­ing his/her ducts cleaned, it is al­ways wise to re­tain the re­ceipt in or­der to demon­strate to prospec­tive buy­ers that it was done pro­fes­sion­ally.

“Duct clean­ing is a rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive way for sell­ers to demon­strate that a cer­tain level of care has been given to the HVAC sys­tem,” Lamorte said. “It gives buy­ers a greater sense of com­fort know­ing that the home has been prop­erly main­tained, and that adds to the de­sir­abil­ity of the prop­erty.”

In or­der to find the right pro­fes­sional to clean your home’s ducts, it’s im­por­tant to do some re­search.

“The in­dus­try is plagued with false — or, worse, scam­ming — busi­nesses that take ad­van­tage of peo­ple,” Doucet said. “Con­sumers need to be smart and to not shop based on low­est price. Duct clean­ing takes time to do — any­where be­tween 2½ to five hours some­times. Com­pa­nies that of­fer sus­pi­cious pric­ing will spend a fraction of that time and won’t take the nec­es­sary mea­sures to prop­erly clean the air vents.”

Home­own­ers can help pro­tect them­selves by look­ing for a com­pany that is NADCA cer­ti­fied, rep­utable and one with pos­i­tive feed­back.

“Your best chance of hir­ing a pro­fes­sional would be from sources like nadca.com or duct­clean­ing. org,” be­cause a com­pany listed on NADCA must meet strict re­quire­ments in or­der to be a mem­ber, Doucet said. “Us­ing duct­clean­ing. org is a great plat­form to ed­u­cate con­sumers on what to know and even if it’s needed.”

Duct clean­ing is ex­tremely im­por­tant for the health of your home’s ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem, but it’s not an easy job and, there­fore, do­ing it right takes spe­cial­ized equip­ment in the hands of a skilled tech­ni­cian. That’s why it’s es­sen­tial to en­sure you’re work­ing with pro­fes­sion­als.

A tech­ni­cian ver­i­fies the duct work us­ing a cam­era or flash­light and mir­ror.

Hav­ing your home’s air ducts cleaned pro­fes­sion­ally is the best op­tion, since tech­ni­cians like this have the proper equip­ment — adapters and brushes like the so-called whip­per that spins and turns in­side the duct “to wake up the sleep­ing dirt” which is sent di­rectly to the vac­uum.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF DUCT MAS­TERS

Home­own­ers them­selves can check if their ducts need to be cleaned. Sim­ply un­screw the rec­tan­gu­lar grill cov­er­ing the re­turn vent to have a look in­side.

A Duct Mas­ters tech­ni­cian re­moves the blower and mo­tor from a fur­nace since, to max­i­mize the air qual­ity in a home, the com­pany of­fers the clean­ing of this equip­ment in ad­di­tion to clean­ing the ducts.

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